It’s been a tough winter! We have been so limited in activities to do with our kids, some of us locked inside for weeks on end. Screen time has ceased to have limits in my house, somethings has got to give right?! Now that the nice weather is here we are ready to start spending much more time outdoors. While i can’t deny it’s been a lifesaver during COVID times, too much time on devices has been found to have negative health and development effects by experts.
Australia’s leading parenting website, Raising Children, concurs that outdoor play is beneficial for kids in many ways.
However, Australian parents face several valid safety concerns when it comes to playing outside including cancer-causing UV rays, and more dangerous creepy crawlies than anywhere on earth! But are these reason enough to keep kids from playing outside? Definitely not!
While we will always need to slip, slop, slap and find shade during peak sunny hours, it is easy to determine the level of risk for air quality before going outside. Just check our air quality and weather guide which gives a daily update on the kids’ safety to play outdoors.
As more and more children are now tempted to stay indoors and stay glued to their laptops and tablets, here are seven reasons why your children should still play outside:
Seven Reasons Why Outdoor Play is Important for Kids
Makes Kids Physically Healthier
Your garden or a near-by park is perfect for a variety of activities such as running, throwing, jumping, pulling, and pushing things. These actions involve rudimentary motor skills which are improved over time with practice and repetition. Let them have fun going round after round with slide and swing sets, hop on the see-saw, and see them break a sweat.
Multiple studies have shown that playing outside allows them to burn more calories, which in turn prevents obesity in children.
Also, enough exposure to the morning sun helps them absorb more Vitamin D, which is the natural prevention against Rickets, myopia, and other chronic diseases. Check out the Cancer Council’s advice on how to obtain adequate Vitamin D while still staying Sun Safe.
Increases Kid’s Attention Span
You might have come across news and studies on how the habitual use of smartphones and tablets can shorten a child’s attention span. It does so by removing the span of time associated with performing tasks such as travelling to meet up with friends or reading a book instead of reading an online summary.
On the other hand, by allowing your kids to play outdoors, they tend to grow more curious and will learn to stay with a single task longer. Usually, with help from other kids, they are able to appreciate and enjoy doing a single task for extended periods of time.
Kids Become Better at Adjusting Socially
Letting kids be kids makes for spontaneous and unstructured play where they make up their own rules and have fun.
The lack of pre-established rules and micromanaging adults allows kids to improvise, invent, and explore their surroundings. Sometimes a setting such as this one allows your kids to learn how to adapt, especially in dealing with others.
These are life lessons usually unavailable with more structured activities like school or sports meets. It is also at these kinds of activities that children learn how to take turns and share the resources.
Take a sandpit playing session for example.
While some kids would initially play by themselves, marking a spot in the pit and the sand they intend to use for themselves, they will later learn to interact with other kids either by invitation from other kids or from their need for additional resources.
Kids Have Better Senses
Kids learn the world around them with help from their five senses – sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. Letting them experience the environment helps them process sensory information and further adds to their bank.
Say a child is delighted at the sight of a new face or stops and giggles at the bark of the pet dog; information like these allows them to establish a relationship between their sensory inputs and abstract concepts.
A study published by Sanford Eye Center and Optical showed that kids who get to regularly play outside have better distance vision as compared to those who remain indoors.
Meanwhile, a child who opts to use electronic devices is limited to only sight and hearing. This will leave them unaware of how things should feel, smell or taste like.
They Become Emotionally Stable
With the opportunity to interact with others relatively their own age, kids learn to deal with different personalities and situations and thus teach them to become emotionally stable.
They will also begin to recognise how success and happiness feel like. These experiences which bring about negative and positive emotions will teach them which activities to avoid and which to set themselves on.
Moreover, children have been shown to be naturally empathetic towards others. They will tend to apply these emotions to what they see in other children, causing them to be more sensitive to the needs of others.
These are the basis for high emotional quotients which will prove indispensable later on in life.
They Learn to be Independent
For a child, the outdoors is an infinite space for them to learn and experience an assortment of things. For a parent though, outdoor playtime is that time where we have to chase them around and keep an eye on them.
In reality, there will always be a window where kids will have to play, without our constant guidance. They get to play with other kids, or by themselves. It is here that they learn how to make decisions on their own. Children likewise learn how to get along with other children without mums and dads to tell them what to do.
Even leaving them to play around your backyard, alone or with friends and with their playsets, gives them the opportunity to navigate through unfamiliar tools. This begins their inquiry and a working understanding of how to get things to work, even without supervision.
Kids Have Better Sleep and Immunity
Of course, a person’s mental constitution directly affects him physically. Increased stress levels often equate to lower immunity and so on. Starting them young with being engaged outdoors also helps them develop better.
Sunlight has been found to stimulate the pineal gland. This is a small gland in the brain responsible for managing sleep and our immune system.
A well-maintained body clock from a young age is essential in helping them avoid a variety of problems later on in life. A messed up circadian rhythm is linked to insomnia, mood swings, and lower immune responses.
The Takeaway: Outdoor Play is a Must
As parents, it is our desire to raise healthy, well-rounded kids. If we want to give them the most during their growing up years, outdoor play is a must. Let them enjoy the outdoors during their growing up years, after all, you only have one chance of raising them to become well-adjusted adults.